West Vancouver’s location between the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains makes for a beautiful setting. But it also leaves it vulnerable to climate change impacts — such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. So the municipality is looking to the future and seeking local input in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — through the creation of a community energy and emissions plan (CEEP).
Planning for the Future
“This plan (CEEP) is going to consider things like looking at building and housing,” explains West Vancouver Manager of Environment and Sustainability, Sandra Bicego. “Ideas there that can reduce greenhouse gases in the way homes are built, it’s going to look at transportation and how people and things move in and around the community. It’s going to look at land use planning broadly, in terms of how a community grows and shapes and changes with people moving in and out of the community. Also, it’s going to look at waste and consumption.”
“It’s really timely that we are embarking on this initiative, says West Vancouver councillor Michael Lewis. “The last couple of years we’ve had substantial flooding in parts of the low areas of our community associated with king tides and onshore winds. We’ve had flooding of municipal buildings, flooding of streets and citizens wanted us to respond and that’s appropriate and we’re doing that. This is one of the mechanisms for us to move forward on this.”
Community Involvement At Heart of Process
The key part of the plan is the community involvement.
“In West Vancouver we work very closely with the community and we formed a resident-based working group,” says Bicego. “They have basically managed the whole process both from their own terms of reference and identifying a schedule with key milestones and they are the ones that are vetting the ideas, thinking about the ideas to reduce greenhouse gas consumption and ultimately it will be the working group based on all the feedback from the public engagement that we will do, it will be the working group that will present to council the final CEE plan.”
“It was a good local initiative and I’ve been involved with things on both a larger scale as far as international things, things that are national, and local, says Tarah Stafford, a member of the CEEP working group. “So, looking at a local level for me is probably one of the best things because we are engaging with the community and you can see your results from what you are working on and I really believe in the working groups that West Vancouver has put together, because citizens are actually taking part.”
Digital Visualizations Aid Understanding
One of the tools the working group uses comes from the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at UBC. These digital visualizations outline possible future scenarios West Vancouver residents might experience, depending on the level of action taken to develop a low carbon community.
“I think it’s very hard for people to see when you are talking in words about what the impact to a community of a specific policy is going to be and what CALP does is develop visualizations that show the community the impact of the policies and strategies that we will be coming up with,” notes working group member Freda Pagani. “It does it in a way that makes it very attractive.”
Protecting Community Assets with Public Input
Michael Lewis notes the CEEP process is meeting the community’s desire to take good care of the place they live.
“What we are hearing from our people is that they want us to protect our assets. The beauty of West Vancouver is that it’s a community that starts at the beach and runs to the mountains and they want us to look after that.”
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